What Are 5 Things I Should Do When Applying for a College Scholarship?

Applying for a college scholarship can seem daunting, but following some simple guidelines can make the process more manageable and provide you with an advantage over the competition. Read on for 5 things you should do when applying for a college scholarship.


Scholarships are awards given to students to help pay their expenses while they attend college. Unlike student loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. With billions of dollars in scholarships and grants awarded each year, and types ranging from merit-based to need-based to college-specific, there are numerous scholarships available to apply for. Following are 5 important things to do when applying for college scholarships.

Important Facts About College Scholarships

Degree LevelsScholarships are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels, although they are less common for graduate students
PrerequisitesVary by scholarship; a minimum GPA, a specific major and community service are common requirements
Demographic AvailabilitySome scholarships are specifically for minorities, veterans, women or students with disabilities
Online AvailabilityFull applications available online for some scholarships, others by traditional mail

1. Do Your Research

Make sure you research available scholarships thoroughly. Apply only for those scholarships you qualify for. Don't overlook smaller awards; there's usually less competition for such awards, and several small scholarships can add up. Contact financial aid offices at the schools to which you're applying to determine if you've overlooked little-known awards.

2. Avoid Scams

Never apply for a college scholarship or grant that requires you to pay a 'processing fee' or other kind of fee. Avoid college scholarship search services that charge a search fee. Make sure the college scholarship information you acquire comes from legitimate sources. Often, state or federal government agencies have websites where scholarship information is compiled, and reviewing these sources can help you verify that you're applying for a valid scholarship. Colleges may also have websites with scholarship information.

3. Focus on Your Essay

Scholarships that require essays often have fewer applicants. Begin writing the essay early on. If possible, tailor your essay for the group awarding the scholarship and follow the guidelines precisely. Have someone read the essay for both clarity and mechanics, such as grammar and punctuation.

4. Seek Strong Recommendations

Avoid asking friends or family members for letters of recommendation. Letters from more objective sources, such as your employer or clergyperson, are considered more credible. If you're a high school student, ask a teacher, guidance counselor or other authority figure, such as a scout leader. If you're an adult learner, ask a colleague.

5. Double-check Everything

Make sure you've included every requested item: application, transcripts, essay, letters of recommendation, test scores and so forth. Fill out forms neatly, and make sure they are complete. After running spell-check, proofread everything and have someone else do the same. Don't send anything that wasn't requested. Keep copies of everything and mail the scholarship application packet well before the deadline.

Where to Get More Tips

The above points can help streamline your scholarship application process. However, you might also consult a guidance counselor or college financial aid officer for additional tips or to answer questions about the application process.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. Next »